Tropical storm Florence hovered over the Carolinas and pounded the region with heavy rains Saturday, after it landed as a hurricane and left five people dead, including an infant. The child´s injured father was taken to a hospital. A woman in Pender County also died when a fallen tree prevented emergency crews from reaching her while she suffered a heart attack, a county spokeswoman said.
"We're helping out a lot of people today", says Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.
On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km).
A local emergency official uses binoculars to see if there is anyone inside a vehicle overtaken by flooding on a highway outside of Jacksonville, North Carolina during Tropical Storm Florence. The center of the hurricane´s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a. m. EDT (1115 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said radar and rain gauges indicated some areas got as much as 2½ feet of rain, which he called "absolutely staggering".
New Bern's mayor said 4,200 homes were damaged in the city.
Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.
"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house.
Tom Ballance, New Bern resident and business owner, told the Weather Channel that he watched water rise around him while sitting in his home, according to the Charlotte Observer. They ventured out in life jackets into the waste-deep water to tie the boat and another floating by to a tree. Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern in part to protect their house.
USA correspondent Cordelia Lynch, who is in New Bern, said: "This community in the weeks and months to come is up against a great deal of flooding".
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse. Atlantic Beach, located on the state´s Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the US Geological Survey said.
The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help. Trump plans a visit to the region next week.
On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air, and at least 525,000 homes and businesses were without power, almost all of them in North Carolina.
Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 30 centimetres to 1 metre as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and SC could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days. It will likely weaken more on Friday, with "rapid weakening forecast over the weekend", the hurricane center said.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the area earlier this week.